Morning Light Bible StudyToday: [Lamentations 3] The Weeping Prophet Affirms the Mercy of God. Do you ever despair of living? Do you sometimes wish that you had never been born? There are times in life when we feel such things, whether they are actually warranted or not. Jeremiah in this chapter just wants to end it all and wishes no longer to live. Yet in the midst of all the darkness and devastation he witnesses in the nation and in his own life he finds the ability nonetheless to confirm the mercies of God that are new every morning both for Jeremiah centuries ago and for you and I as well, in the present day.
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[Lam 3:1-66 KJV] 1 I [am] the man [that] hath seen affliction by the rod of his wrath. 2 He hath led me, and brought [me into] darkness, but not [into] light. 3 Surely against me is he turned; he turneth his hand [against me] all the day. 4 My flesh and my skin hath he made old; he hath broken my bones. 5 He hath builded against me, and compassed [me] with gall and travail. 6 He hath set me in dark places, as [they that be] dead of old. 7 He hath hedged me about, that I cannot get out: he hath made my chain heavy. 8 Also when I cry and shout, he shutteth out my prayer. 9 He hath inclosed my ways with hewn stone, he hath made my paths crooked. 10 He [was] unto me [as] a bear lying in wait, [and as] a lion in secret places. 11 He hath turned aside my ways, and pulled me in pieces: he hath made me desolate. 12 He hath bent his bow, and set me as a mark for the arrow. 13 He hath caused the arrows of his quiver to enter into my reins. 14 I was a derision to all my people; [and] their song all the day. 15 He hath filled me with bitterness, he hath made me drunken with wormwood. 16 He hath also broken my teeth with gravel stones, he hath covered me with ashes. 17 And thou hast removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity. 18 And I said, My strength and my hope is perished from the LORD: 19 Remembering mine affliction and my misery, the wormwood and the gall. 20 My soul hath [them] still in remembrance, and is humbled in me. 21 This I recall to my mind, therefore have I hope. 22 [It is of] the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. 23 [They are] new every morning: great [is] thy faithfulness. 24 The LORD [is] my portion, saith my soul; therefore will I hope in him. 25 The LORD [is] good unto them that wait for him, to the soul [that] seeketh him. 26 [It is] good that [a man] should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the LORD. 27 [It is] good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth. 28 He sitteth alone and keepeth silence, because he hath borne [it] upon him. 29 He putteth his mouth in the dust; if so be there may be hope. 30 He giveth [his] cheek to him that smiteth him: he is filled full with reproach. 31 For the Lord will not cast off for ever: 32 But though he cause grief, yet will he have compassion according to the multitude of his mercies.
Thought this chapter is broken into 66 verses, nonetheless it is (like chs. 1-4) written in 3 line sections, thus comprising 22 stanzas altogether. Chapter 3 verse 1 is the exact center of the book of Lamentations. While the chapter and verse increments were not original in the text, nonetheless Jewish scholars from antiquity were aware of such features as the middle passage, or word or consonant in the Old Testament scriptures, most prominently the Torah. In verse 1 the writer, commonly held to be Jeremiah, identifies himself as the witness of affliction among the people of the southern kingdom due to decades of rampant transgression. He complains that God has led him in a direction he would have chosen not to go – into darkness rather than light. Here we see as in Job, a record of the writer’s feelings and experiences, not necessarily what God actually did. God used Jeremiah in a final effort to avert a disaster in Judah that had been fomenting since the days of Isaiah. At any given point up to the final days before the Babylonian invasion, deliverance was possible and held out by God in exchange for repentance and abandoning the idolatry that was systemic in the southern kingdom for centuries. In looking back upon his life and recent events, Jeremiah describes the remembrance as misery, wormwood and gall.
Wormwood is believed to be Hemlock by modern definition and is metaphor for suicidal depression, in which Jeremiah is saying that he despairs of life. There are times in life when pressure is so great that we wonder (however self-indulgently we do so) if we would be better not to be alive or to even have been born. Looking from without on such contemplations we might think such thoughts are unwarranted but never despise someone going through such difficulties. For them the feelings are very real and something that must be grappled with even as Paul the apostle himself when through such difficulties:
[2Co 1:8-9 KJV] 8 For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: 9 But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead:
How did Paul come away unscathed from such a deep depression and heavy pressure in his situation that he just wanted to die? He realized that he couldn’t look to himself, he had to look to God. Even when it seems you have no way out and the finality of what is happening around you is inescapable, always remember that God is a God of resurrection. On the other side of a dead end situation with no hope, God is present and making known to us that this too, will pass and life will go on. At the end of the matter, even the most difficult trial will only serve as a footnote to God’s greater faithfulness in our lives, if we will just continue to look to Him.
Jeremiah affirms this perspective of hope against hope in verse 22. In the midst of the most difficult challenges of your life remember that the mercies of God are present, whether we realize it or not. They are new every morning (v. 23) and though everything be taken from you, the Lord is still your portion (v. 24). Always remember that the Lord’s goodness will be seen by those that continue to 1.) wait for Him; and 2.) to seek Him. Therefore in the midst of your trial remember that the path of progress, the response that brings that hand of God to bear in your behalf is 1.) to continue to hope against hope, and 2.) to quietly wait for Him. It is hard to be quiet when you are hurting, but sometimes the greatest faith statement you can make is to say nothing at all as you wait to see the hand of God at work in your midst.
33 For he doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men. 34 To crush under his feet all the prisoners of the earth, 35 To turn aside the right of a man before the face of the most High, 36 To subvert a man in his cause, the Lord approveth not. 37 Who [is] he [that] saith, and it cometh to pass, [when] the Lord commandeth [it] not? 38 Out of the mouth of the most High proceedeth not evil and good? 39 Wherefore doth a living man complain, a man for the punishment of his sins? 40 Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the LORD. 41 Let us lift up our heart with [our] hands unto God in the heavens. 42 We have transgressed and have rebelled: thou hast not pardoned. 43 Thou hast covered with anger, and persecuted us: thou hast slain, thou hast not pitied. 44 Thou hast covered thyself with a cloud, that [our] prayer should not pass through. 45 Thou hast made us [as] the offscouring and refuse in the midst of the people. 46 All our enemies have opened their mouths against us. 47 Fear and a snare is come upon us, desolation and destruction. 48 Mine eye runneth down with rivers of water for the destruction of the daughter of my people. 49 Mine eye trickleth down, and ceaseth not, without any intermission, 50 Till the LORD look down, and behold from heaven. 51 Mine eye affecteth mine heart because of all the daughters of my city. 52 Mine enemies chased me sore, like a bird, without cause. 53 They have cut off my life in the dungeon, and cast a stone upon me. 54 Waters flowed over mine head; [then] I said, I am cut off. 55 I called upon thy name, O LORD, out of the low dungeon. 56 Thou hast heard my voice: hide not thine ear at my breathing, at my cry. 57 Thou drewest near in the day [that] I called upon thee: thou saidst, Fear not. 58 O Lord, thou hast pleaded the causes of my soul; thou hast redeemed my life. 59 O LORD, thou hast seen my wrong: judge thou my cause. 60 Thou hast seen all their vengeance [and] all their imaginations against me. 61 Thou hast heard their reproach, O LORD, [and] all their imaginations against me; 62 The lips of those that rose up against me, and their device against me all the day. 63 Behold their sitting down, and their rising up; I [am] their musick. 64 Render unto them a recompence, O LORD, according to the work of their hands. 65 Give them sorrow of heart, thy curse unto them. 66 Persecute and destroy them in anger from under the heavens of the LORD.
Verse 33 tells us that God does not willingly allow affliction or grief to come to the children of men. Verse 36 repeats, that God’s highest purpose is not to subvert our cause or to sabotage our hopes and dreams. It is commonly taught, unfortunately in the congregation of the uninformed that God delights to set challenges, suffering and difficulty before us for some inscrutable purpose, but time and again in scriptures that such self-appointed authorities must wholly neglect, we see the affirmation of the Father that His desire for us is not disappointment or downturn but life and life more abundantly.
In verse 39 the writer reproves men for complaining against God when much of the difficulty we face is because we simply weren’t listening to or heeding His commandments. Rather than questioning God, the writer suggests our energies might be better spent searching and trying our own ways, and turning back to God. The point being made is when we complain we have hurled ourselves over the abyss of a backslidden state and it is up to us and not to God to do something about it. When complaint comes, murmuring and contradiction v. 42 tells us these protests and moanings are signs of a heart that has already transgressed and rebelled and that pardon will not come until we (v. 41) life up our heart to God once again and calmly, patiently wait for Him until the scourge of difficulties we are facing are lifted.
Jeremiah’s ongoing intercession and sorrow is described as tears that do not cease, without any remittance (v. 49), until the Lord looks down from heaven and brings respite to his soul (v. 50). In the lowest dungeon, in which Jeremiah was incarcerated more than once Jeremiah has cried out to God and reports (v. 57) that when he called, God answered and drew near to him. We know this is true when even as the city of Jerusalem fell, and the king’s house was burned with fire that the captain of the guard of the king of Babylon rescued Jeremiah from the burning and gave him his freedom.
What about your situation? Do you feel like in your life at times you have something in common with Jeremiah? Have you seen seemingly irreversible devastation come into your life and that without any apparent remedy? Remember the sufferings of Jeremiah. We can look at this prophet and not be envious in any way for his assignment from God or for the fate of the generation he spoke to. Nonetheless in the midst of the greatest sorrow, at the very center of this most difficult book of the bible to study is the unceasing affirmation of the unfailing mercies of God. Remember that in the difficulties you might face on the morrow. The most powerful prayer that you can ever pray in the midst of a fiery trial is that one word plaintive cry for the mercy of God to be shown in your behalf.
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